Peering inside research networks: Some observations on the effect of the intensity of collaboration on the variability of research quality
Although there is some general agreement that increasing levels of collaboration amongst academics produce research papers that receive more citations, and that larger numbers of citations often imply higher quality, the issue of collaboration and its effect upon research output remains a controversial area with a wide range of views of what role collaboration plays and its general implications for quality. This paper re-examines the process of collaboration within research networks. It considers the role of collaboration and its effect on quality by studying the relationship between the level of interaction within research networks (collaboration) and the extent of variability of quality within those research networks. Twenty-two scientific networks from Austria are examined. The findings of the analysis are that increasing levels of collaboration are strongly associated with lower levels of variability of quality within each network. The conclusion is therefore drawn that collaboration at the level of the research network acts upon research quality qua peer review and that this peer review effect is inherent throughout the research process.